Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Work-related: The Emergency Room, Again (in which I am rescued by Helen Hunt)

So now Tuesday. The ER, on Monday, set up an appointment for me to see the Occupational Health department. "Occupational Health" is apparently mostly a euphemism for work-related drug-testing (the husband's theory), but they do some actual medicine, occasionally, as well. Or at least so I'm told. I never saw any actual medicine, but they had posters up in the exam room that looked sort of mediciney, and there were gloves and stuff. I mean, you would have thought that medicine was practiced there, or at least had been at one time, to look at the place.

It sure looks like a doctor's office.

The appointment was set for 8:30 AM. It took until 9 AM to get and fill out the paperwork, at which point a nurse took me back to an exam room and took my blood pressure, which seemed alarmingly high (something over 100), considering what it had been in the emergency room on Monday. Then she left, and I didn't see another soul until 9:30ish, and that was just a doctor popping his head in, saying, whoops, wrong patient, and leaving again.

Actual further medical care had to wait until about 9:45 AM, at which point a second nurse came in to take my blood pressure. Again. She explained that the doctor wanted to get a reading standing up vs. a reading laying down. So far so good. She also got some really high numbers, which by 9:45 AM I would have expected my blood pressure to be high, just from rage over having to sit around for an hour fifteen minutes, but she didn't ask me for an explanation, she just went and got a different blood pressure cuff and tried that one, and the numbers were better then. Then they got a urine sample and I waited some more.

At about 10 AM, one and a half hours after my "appointment," I finally saw a doctor, who said, basically, well, looks like you were dehydrated, and had heat exhaustion, but it looks like you're not and you don't now, so I'm clearing you to go to work. Drink lots of water -- you should be aiming for having to pee about every hour or so -- and keep away from alcohol and caffeine and heat as much as you can.

That's it? That's what I waited all morning for? I knew all this already! So I pushed him:

Look, I said, that's all that anybody's told me all along, drink lots of water, drink lots of water. I've been drinking lots of water. It doesn't help. I'm not dehydrated, I never was, my urine's as pale coming out as it is going in, drinking lots of water is not cutting it. And anyway I already knew all of that, that's what they told me last night, that's what they told me at work, that's what I knew on my own since I looked this up last summer on Wikigoddamnpedia.

And he got visibly annoyed with me, and said, well, maybe this just isn't a job you can do. I don't have a magic pill to give you. Maybe the Wellbutrin you're on is doing weird things to your blood pressure; it can do that, sometimes. (I wasn't thinking clearly, or I would have pointed out that neither the stand-up nor the lie-down reading she'd gotten was out of the ordinary: if it was the Wellbutrin, it obviously wasn't misbehaving then, nor was there any evidence that it ever had.) And then he said to wait for a bit and the nurse would get me and take me back out to the waiting room, where I could collect discharge papers and be on my way.

At some point in here, the combination of rage over having to wait that long to be seen, the pre-existing stress over what this meant for my employment situation, and complete uselessness of wasting my whole morning to be told nothing I didn't already know (and it's not like the follow-up visit had been my idea, please note: the ER scheduled it for me), all kind of got to me at once and I came about as close to crying as you can without actually, you know, crying.

And then I was rescued by Helen Hunt.

(Insert your own angelic-choir noises here. I would also accept Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus," as performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, if you want to get all fancy about it.)

No, seriously. Helen Hunt, smiling her angelic photoshopped smile from a magazine in a rack on the wall.

And I thought, okay, let's get some perspective here. This sort of thing happens to people all the time. Let's pretend it's not real, and that this is just a Lifetime movie where Helen Hunt is a tough-but-loveable greenhouse worker who's having some heat issues and maybe also solving a murder. What would normally happen next in this plot? What would Helen Hunt do at this point?

I concluded, after some thought, that if it were Helen Hunt, she'd have the big emotional breakdown scene like I had just had, and then she'd pull herself together in some kind of big pulling-oneself-together montage and be all feisty and dignified and go out there and be victorious over whatever it was anyway. And then she'd catch the killer and learn the true meaning of family or Christmas or puppies or something, 'cause, you know, Lifetime. And, well, if Helen Hunt can do it, then so can I, right?

(Note to self: I totally need to make some WWHHD? bracelets.)

I freely admit that this was a pretty dumb train of thought. But it worked. I think I basically just needed the distraction, something else to think about for a second. (Like Cesar Milan does with dogs sometimes on "The Dog Whisperer," or like Jo does with kids on "Supernanny." And yes, "Dog Whisperer" and "Supernanny" are both shows I've been known to watch. Having a couple drinks with Jo in a nice neighborhood bar somewhere is totally on my life's to-do list. And yes, "Dog Whisperer" and "Supernanny" are essentially the same show. But it's a show I like. Shut up.) So I managed to pull myself together, in Helen Hunt fashion,1 and back out to the waiting room, where I did eventually get to leave.

Never again with [hospital name], I said to the husband as we drove to my job. Never ever ever. What incredible, useless dicks. I'd previously used [other hospital], which, they weren't, like, jumping to attention as soon as I came into view, but they never inspired me to homicide, either. Not like this. Grumble grumble. Bitch bitch.

So I was seething when I got to work, but eventually I did settle down (after ranting briefly at one of the nursery lot guys). And actual work got done.

We have two greenhouses that are attached to the store: a north one, which was built first and has better ventilation and tends to be cooler, and then a south one, which was added on at some point and has comparatively little ventilation.2 The south house is normally only open in the spring (maybe February to June), for annuals, and then the fall (October to December), for poinsettias. When the flood happened, all kinds of stuff from the store got moved to the tables in the south greenhouse, because that was slightly higher ground than where they were, and since then, everybody's been really busy trying to get stuff back where it needs to be, and the stuff in the south house is really only a priority to me because it really only affects me. So that was what I did. It was cloudy out, and not unbearably hot, so I figured Tuesday, what was left of it, was my best shot at accomplishing something in the south house (when am I going to have another reasonable-temperature cloudy day, after all?), and maybe accomplishing something would make me feel better.

So I finished moving stuff out of the south greenhouse, and I started spraying down the capillary mats on the tables. Capillary mats, for those of you who don't know, are just big black mats that are supposed to hold water -- the theory is that you can put plants on a mat, spray the mat with water, and then the plants will soak up the water from the mat, and it's all very neat and tidy. In actual practice, it's never that simple, because sometimes the soil has dried up and contracted and isn't touching the capillary mat anymore, or the mat isn't exactly perfectly level, so water pools in some spots and never reaches others, etc., but on paper it sounds like something that should work. Anyway. So during the course of the season, dirt gets spilled on the mats, and dead leaves fall on the mats and get absorbed into them and turned into algae and scum, and roots grow out of the pots into the mats and then get left behind when the plants are moved, and so on and so forth. So I elected to spray the capillary mats clean for the rest of the day.

The "before" picture.

And that was really slow work, but I was still, you know, able to do it. Went and drank a bunch of water about every ten to fifteen minutes, the greenhouse wasn't unbearably hot, everything seemed to be going okay.

And then the rain hit.

Outside rain, of course. But there was so much of it. I mean, seriously, you would have thought the place was getting sprayed by fifteen fire hoses at once.

Unfortunately, we hadn't gotten all the sandbags moved away yet, from the flood preparations, partly because the boss wasn't sure she trusted that the flood was over, and partly because not enough people had had enough time to get to them all yet. Like I said, we've been busy pretty much across the board, trying to get things put back where they're supposed to be. So long as the sandbags were behaving themselves, other things were the priority.

So but you see the problem. Huge quantities of rain falling, gutter attachments that had been removed or had flopped into the wrong spots and were pouring water into the space between the building and the sandbags -- we had water coming into the building, fast, in at least three spots. I mean, the actual rain was maybe only really intense for about ten or fifteen minutes, and we still managed to have water an inch deep in one room inside.

So it was a problem. But still - doesn't sound like an obvious heat problem, right?

But. Then everybody opened all the doors for maximum air circulation (they'd been closed previously to keep in the air conditioning: the store and flower shop are air-conditioned). Which meant that there was nowhere air-conditioned I could go to, to cool off, except the flower cooler, which was cold enough to be, possibly, dangerous (as explained in footnote 5) for me. Plus everybody was running around crazily trying to mop up, or squeegie away, the water that had come in, which meant there wasn't anywhere I could actually stand that was out of the way. And then the humidity went to basically 99% in the whole building, the whole outside, everywhere, and the air also got really still.

Oh shit.

I had already not been doing that great, for reasons I don't completely understand: I elected to take a short break at 2 PM and eat something. WCW always has a Snickers bar at some point during her shift, and WCW has no problem with the heat, so I decided to get a Snickers, on the theory that maybe that was her secret.3 And I got a "Powerade," Coca-Cola's entry in the sports drinks sweepstakes, on the suggestion of the boss's husband,4 and also because it was cold and non-caffeinated.

The Snickers bar went fine, but the first drink of the Powerade, when it hit my throat, immediately gave me a weird feeling in my head. Pressure, mostly, like a sudden, bad sinus headache. This was odd, certainly, but I didn't know that it was necessarily bad -- I figured maybe it was a cousin of ice-cream brain-freeze, and it'd go away momentarily. And meanwhile, I had potassium to replenish, so I finished drinking it, just slower.

That weird head pressure feeling stayed with me for the rest of the day, and I never really got an answer as to what it might have signified or whether it was necessarily a problem.5 But so anyway, back to the rain. After about half an hour of trying to figure out whether I might be useful, or trying to find a place to go where I could cool down, I realized that I was kind of deeply fucked up (the weird head-pressure thing, plus I wasn't cooling down, even standing in front of a fan, and I could tell that my brain wasn't really operating normally, though I'm not sure how it was malfunctioning, exactly) and needed to go home. So I punched out, told people what was going on ("Yeah," said one of them, "you do look really pale." There was no need for her to add, again.), and then there was a brief conversation with co-workers about exactly how useless the ER and Occ. Health had been, and then the husband arrived and took me home.

Wasn't feeling any better at home, though it was cooler. Head still felt weird, and I was actually beginning to feel a little dizzy and nauseous, I was able to speak more or less coherently, but I remember being kind of frustrated at how slow it was -- I was having all the same thoughts; they were just taking longer to get to my mouth,6 and my arm was cramping up. We discussed whether I wanted to go to [crappy hospital I'd been to already] or [other hospital], and I said [crappy hospital] was probably the better choice, because at the very least they'd just seen me the day before, so maybe the fact that I was coming back would mean something to them, where I'd be starting over from scratch with [other hospital]. Husband argued that [other hospital] was the better choice, by virtue of not being crappy, and because we weren't mad at [other hospital] for the morning. The conversation was long. Eventually we wound up going back to [crappy hospital].

Hey everybody! I'm back!

Got there at just about 5 PM exactly, and didn't leave until just before 8 PM. Much, much, much better doctor this time. He said that the Wellbutrin really probably was not the cause, that if I'd already been on it for a couple years then my body was probably adapted to it just fine, that neither antidepressants as a class nor Wellbutrin specifically were known for causing that sort of problem, and so he didn't see any reason to go off of it. He also said, when I asked about what the Occ. Health doctor had said, that yeah, sure, there are blood pressure issues for some people with Wellbutrin, but if that was my problem, I would have found out when I first started taking it, not two years later.7

There was a urinalysis, and a blood workup, neither of which turned up anything terribly unusual or interesting, and I got a liter of saline solution by IV, which was interesting only insofar as getting a liter of room-temperature liquid stuck in you makes you cold,8 and so I was shivering during a lot of that. Also, judging by how many times the nurse had to stick me with the needle, I apparently have difficult, crooked veins that pretend to go one way but then go a different way. Which does (sigh) kinda sound like me.

The doctor said that it looked like I may actually have been drinking too much water, that my urine was awfully dilute,9 and my blood sodium and potassium were also on the low end of normal, which could also indicate some excessive dilution, though none of it threatened health or anything, just, it was noteworthy, especially for heat exhaustion, since overhydration and heat exhaustion aren't normally problems that go together.

He also said I shouldn't probably go to work on Wednesday, which I hadn't been planning on it anyway (I'm scheduled, but so is WCW, and it seems a bit silly to even try, at this point. One emergency room visit in one day: Oh, you poor dear. Two emergency room visits in two days: Oh my god! What's going on? Are you going to be okay? Is there anything I can do? Three emergency room visits in three days: Oh. So . . . you just really like going to the emergency room, right?). Didn't really address the question of whether to go back to work after that, or how.

Which is something I'm going to try to avoid thinking about today.

Side-note: I appreciate all the comments on yesterday's post. Obviously I would have responded to them, but I was kind of otherwise-occupied all day Tuesday.

-

Photo credits: Well, me, kind of obviously, though an argument could be made that Redbook sort of owns the Helen Hunt picture.

1 This is actually sort of unusual for me. I mean, I don't think of myself as being especially effeminate, and I don't get the impression from other people that they think I am either. But there must be something: I don't imagine many straight guys in that exam room have ever looked to Helen Hunt as a role model.
2 (North has a ridge vent, vent fans, a door to the west, and a door to the north which leads into a work area in back; south has only vents along the south wall, and two big industrial fan vents on the west. There's also a door on the west end, but it's broken in such a way that if you ever open it to get air moving, three different people will descend upon you on three separate occasions throughout the day, usually when you're holding something really heavy, whether you were the one who opened it or not, screeching that the door is never to be opened under any circumstances because there's something screwy with the door frame and it's, allegedly, hard to get the door closed again once it's been opened, so don't ever open the door ever, for any reason, ever. Though I've not had that much problem closing the door, when I've had to close it, so I'm a little confused still about what the deal is. In any case, having the vents at person-height along the walls, while better than nothing, also lets the heat build up along the roof. There's no ridge vent, and only two small exhaust fans up high, so the heat just builds and then gets blown down by two ceiling fans, so that there are two spots in that house where the plants dry out every fifteen minutes, and that are really uncomfortable, brain-cooking places to stand. Having a door to open on the west end would be helpful, though it's probably not the whole answer.)
3 (She also smokes. I used to smoke, and I don't recall having any problems with heat back when I was a smoker, so there's a hypothesis, but unfortunately I can't test that to see if smoking is WCW's secret heat-adaptation strategy, because not only would the husband not approve, but I'd likely wind up with asthma again, since developing asthma is why I was eventually forced to quit in the first place.)
4 Who is also a boss, but they apparently worked out a separate-spheres kind of arrangement a long time ago: he runs the flower shop and deliveries, and she runs the landscaping, billing, annuals, greenhouse, etc. There's some small overlap in the store and in the greenhouse, but otherwise they're more or less autonomous in their own part of the business.
5 My best guess is that the cold, when it hit my throat, caused some set of blood vessels in my throat or head or somewhere to constrict, which then led to feeling pressure in my head. I have no actual idea of this is correct, though I do know that this is the reasoning behind why they say not to take someone with heat stroke and toss them into a bathtub full of ice: the cold hitting their skin makes the blood vessels on the outside of their body constrict, and then the heat at the core of the body has a harder time getting out, so they actually, contrary to what you'd expect, stay hotter longer, in the areas where the damage is actually happening. This, on a smaller scale, could have been responsible for my headache, though if that were all, I'd think it would have gone away sooner than it did.
6 Which is kind of one of my very special fears about getting old. If I had a stroke or something, and it left me able to think but not able to communicate . . . .[shudder] I'd kind of rather be dead. In this case, I was really only having to be a little more deliberate about speaking than usual, and it wasn't that big of a deal, but even that much was panicking me a little bit. I want to be able to take communication for granted. In fact, I'm going to insist on it.
7 At this point, it occurred to me that the Occ. Health doctor hadn't even asked me how long I'd been taking Wellbutrin, and that information wasn't on the sheet I had had to fill out, and I got mad at him all over again. I really kind of hate him and wish him ill. At the very least he could have reminded me that I might be somewhat weakened by Monday's experience, and that I would be, consequently, more prone than usual to heat exhaustion on Tuesday. But no. Not even that.
8 Makes perfect sense, of course. The average body only has about 4 1/2 to 5 liters of blood to begin with: mixing a liter of saline at 72F (22C) with 5 liters of blood at 98F (37C) is going to drop the temperature of the mix down to about 94F (34C). Which I'm assuming is part of why they stretched it out over 30 or 40 minutes.
9 Specific gravity of 1.005 g/mL; the lab report said that the normal range was 1.001 to 1.031. Wikipedia gives the normal specific gravity of urine as 1.010 to 1.030, in which case I was outside the normal range, on the too-much-water side. Though we know Wikipedia is not necessarily to be trusted. In any event, I was only following the instructions from Occ. Health, may he burn in hell forever, and trying to drink enough to pee every hour. And I was peeing every hour, even after I left work: I went three times at the ER.


10 comments:

Benjamin Vogt said...

Holy crap! I kept reading this post and reading it, thinking when will this end (your misery and the post in general). Are you feeling better? My lord. I hate seeing doctors--it's always like that; nice that we have a sick care system vs. a helath care one. I've also been staring at my wife's Helen Hunt mag for some time now. I won't say why. But it's always on top for some reason.

mr_subjunctive said...

Yes, I'm mostly feeling better, but it was still a Very Bad Day.

I just talked to my boss over the phone, and neither of us really have any good ideas about how to proceed from here, so it is kind of looking like I'm going to wind up losing my job over it, eventually, one way or the other, probably after a long and painful process of trying to salvage it. (But at least the overall economy is good and I don't have any outstanding medical expenses hanging over my head. Oh, wait.) So emotionally I'm . . . well, I think this is denial.

And obviously Helen Hunt is just inspiring you to be more feisty and dignified. I knew it couldn't just be me.

Anonymous said...

So is it the heat? Or is it the humidity and the still air?

People have died from drinking too much water because - as you point out - it removes electrolytes and stuff from the system far more quickly than normal.

Possibles for cooling down - loose clothes and natural fibres - cotton, silk, (which is great, IMO), hemp. Or something that wicks away your heat/moisture. You might find something suitable at an outdoors/extreme sports store.

Could you 'import' a fan into the glasshouse? Particularly down the far end where it would otherwise be too still?

Deepest sympathy for you. I can manage dry heat but that damp 'after shower' feeling has me zonked so quickly.

If you do go for a different job - I guess well-set up glasshouses with excellent summer ventilation would be a priority!

Lance said...

I hope you can find a solution and things get better. I know that antidepressants have made me unable to tolerate heat, I've gone from very cold natured to not being able to even wear long sleeve shirts even in winter. But I've never been on Welbutrin, but my doctor has tried both Paxil and Zoloft - both keep me very warm all the time.

The previous comment about still air could be related, I know I don't have as much trouble with heat as long as I keep a strong fan blowing on me most of the time.

sheila said...

I really think the wellbutrin could at least be a contributor. Have you had a problem with heat all your life, or just since you've been taking that?

I spent a couple of years taking Effexor. I used to be cold all the time, but the Effexor made the heat really unbearable. Working outside at the nursery, I would get so red in the face that people would worry about me, and I would sweat profusely, and get dizzy sometimes. That was one of the reasons I got off the drug.

Can you go see the doc who prescribed the Wellbutrin and discuss this? Perhaps another med would be easier on you and you could keep your job. I hope you can work something out.

Water Roots said...

Oh my...this certainly has not been a good period for you; I'm so sorry that you are having such a hard time.

I agree with Sheila that the wellbutrin could at least be a contributor. In any case, it's certainly worth looking into.

Anyhow, I hope it all works out for the best, whatever that outcome may be. Your health always comes first; the job will work itself out.

mr_subjunctive said...

Anonymous:

Yes. It's the heat, and it's the humidity and still air. Both have to be present, it's just that the humidity seems to be more of a deciding factor in how the day turns out than the actual temperature does.

I didn't get the impression that the ER doctor thought my overdrinking water was serious enough to be verging on life-threatening, or even that it was actually overdrinking, as far as that goes. But considering how everybody so far (boss, boss's husband, first ER doctor, Occ. Health doctor) has been telling me that more water is the answer to, you know, everything, I'm actually a little surprised that I didn't overdo it. I'm not saying that you don't need to drink water when you're out in the heat, just that it's not all that useful as a knee-jerk medical response without, you know, checking the patient's hydration first.

I usually wear a knit cotton polo at work, that being what they gave me to wear when I started. The shirts are widely regarded by staff as being extremely good at absorbing water and extremely bad at re-releasing it. The boss and her husband have both suggested that I should buy some of the . . . whatever the hot new artificial fiber that wicks moisture away from your body is. Not that they've offered to pay for any such clothing. But they think I should look into it. This was only seriously suggested on Tuesday, though, and for obvious reasons I didn't go outside on Wednesday, so there hasn't been time to try it yet. And if I do I still think that they should pay for it.

There are several box fans in the north greenhouse: four up high, which appear to be there to provide air circulation for the sake of air circulation (i.e., they're not placed strategically, they're just there). Two of them haven't worked since the flood preparations; I don't know why. There are also two ceiling fans blowing air directly down, which are on the same electrical switch as the box fans (i.e., you can't have the ceiling fans without the box fans, and vice-versa), and which don't seem to serve any useful purpose other than to make select locations very very hot. There are also three box fans next to the workroom door, which are, in theory, pulling slightly cooler air from the workroom into the greenhouse, though someone (WCW?) turned one of these around so that it was blowing on the African violets. The African violets needed the air, it's true, but placing their fan right next to the other two, facing the opposite direction, probably just means that air is being spun in very small hot circles there and isn't really doing anything useful for anybody anymore.

And then I think we have one or two more box fans in the very hottest part of the north house, which are trying to circulate air through a bunch of Hibiscus, Citrus, Allamanda, and Strelitzia (mainly) that have to be in the sun all day. The shade cloth, for some reason, doesn't extend all the way over the entire greenhouse, and those are the plants that wound up in that spot. So they get fans too.

I think there are maybe two other fans left, one of which I was using in the workroom (though it doesn't actually help much to cool me off if I'm too hot, as I found out Tuesday), and the other of which is, last I knew, unspoken for.

lance / sheila:

I did talk to my psychiatrist about it, last December, and he said it wasn't known for being a problem heatwise. Judging from what ER doctor #2 said, the main category of medications that this happens with are the antipsychotics (Thorazine, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Risperdal, e.g.). The only doctor who has actually said that they thought there was a good chance that the Wellbutrin was the problem was the Occ. Health doctor, and he was basing this on a symptom (high blood pressure) that he had no evidence I had, information he didn't look up (as far as I saw) and a medication history he never got, plus he had some obvious incentive to point the finger somewhere besides my work environment in the first place. Also he was a douchebag. I really don't think it's the Wellbutrin.

Something else to be considered: people, including people who should know, have told me more than once that heat exhaustion can be a cumulative thing. Having it once sets you up to have it again, and having it three times in ten days (like I've just had: July 2, 7 and 8) presumably really sets you up to have it again. It may, at this point, be an entirely academic question whether the Wellbutrin started it or not. I at least never had any outstanding problems with heat sensitivity until starting this job, and I don't think I ever had heat exhaustion until starting this job, with one exception: the husband and I moved in together in July 2006, which was the most miserably hot weekend of all miserably hot weekends, and the new apartment's air conditioning wasn't working properly when we got in. I think I had heat exhaustion at least once during that period. Other than that, nothing until I got in the greenhouse.

themanicgardener said...

I can't believe you had the energy to write all this. It's amazing. And very, very funny, as well as infuriating (if you don't push Bad Doctor in the chest and tell him to go soak his head, I will) and moving (sounds like the husband is ready and willing to help, thank goodness).

About heat and clothes: I'm voting (twice) for the natural fibers anonymous recommends, especially, in summer, silk. I'm very heat sensitive in both directions: cold, in part because got frost-bite all over my thighs as a teenager, and heat, more recently, because I have MS (multiple sclerosis--a really light case). I've always preferred natural fibers, but now silk is sometimes the only thing I'm comfortable in. It's cooler than anything else, when it's well made it's indestructable (it's what parachutes were made of before nylon), it doesn't need to be treated half as carefully as labels say (I buy it cheap and wash it cold), it keeps you cool, it keeps you warm, and it dries faster than anything else in the world.

The other thing I do is weird, I know, but it works: I do the wet T-shirt thing. Or sweatshirt, if it's hot enough. And for this cotton works best, because as you've noticed, it takes forever to dry. I soak a knit shirt in cold water, wring it out to the point where it won't drip, and put it on. It's like a personal air-conditioning system. If that would constitute unacceptable behaviour at work, how about a spritzer? You must be surrounded by them. Or a damp bandana around neck or head.

One last idea: Since heat can exacerbate MS symptoms, some people buy special vests with pockets in them to hold ice packs. Maybe a vest like that would help when you're working in the really hot areas. Your doctor would probably know how to get hold of one; if not, put me on it.

Jeez, I hope you don't lose your job, and I hope the place stops flooding and your doctors figure everything out, and you find a way to stay comfortable. Be cool, man--
--Kate

daphne said...

I. The Greenhouse

Wait a minute. You (and your boss) are thinking maybe your body is irreconcilable with the summer greenhouse. The way it's run right now, that is. Now, if those conditions were really necessary, then maybe this would not be the job for you. But I don't think they are, 'cause a) it sounds like most plants really don't appreciate it, and b) those that are thriving are going home with folks that keep their homes as close to 72F as they can afford, so if they really need 90+ temps and humidity, they're not going to last long and you shouldn't be selling them in the first place. So it doesn't have to be that bad.

So why is it that bad? It sounds like no-one else really notices, perhaps because few spend as much time in the greenhouses as you. Why aren't the lower fans on again after the flood? Did a breaker throw? Did someone turn them off and forget? Can you fix it? The mini-circulation system- all wrong. You need sustained airflow from the coolest side of the building out to the warmest. How much trouble would it be just to turn the appropriate fans around? The door that no-one can close but you? Just tell them, I'll close it before I leave, don't you worry about it. Can some of these things be done without even involving the boss? Especially since it would be better for most of the plants anyways?

daphne said...

II. Hyperthermia, not the Red Cross (TM) version

Don't be afraid to go in the flower cooler!

The thing about the ice bath is indeed BS, but not for the reason you were given. If you're alert enough to do it yourself, you're not gonna like it, no matter how hot you are. And if you're so gone that someone needs to do it for you, your body's probably lost its ability to thermoregulate and you're likely to slip right past 98 down into hypothermia before you come around enough even to shiver, and your friends will be hovering over you, feeling your forehead and saying, "Jeez, he feels cold, but he's still out of it. More ice!" When in fact they should be calling 911.

This is not likely to happen to you in the flower cooler (unless you don't tell anyone where you're going, lie down on the floor and go to sleep for a long time, so tell WCW where you're going.) I speak not only as a longtime first aider who's treated many cases of hyper- and hypothermia, but also as a patient with a tendency to heat exhaustion who's had her share of dishwashing. Talk about the heat index. Taking a break in the walk-in cooler is like the unwritten rule of the non-existant union- when your buddy's looking too flushed you tell him/her to go take a break in the cooler.

Now about the fluids. It sounds like Mr. Florist is smarter than Dr. Checkoff, because if you're low on electrolytes you may as well not be drinking water because it's not going to get into the cells that need it- it's just gonna go right thru you and give you that nice healthy-looking clear urine. Gatorade is an expensive habit but you can make your own with 1Tbsp sea salt (be sure it's real sea salt with potassium, and dissolve in a little hot water before mixing) and a quart of your favorite juice (I use unsweetened cranberry cuz I get the UTI's when I'm dehydrated) diluted into a gallon of water. Bring it to work and alternate with drinking water.

Do you have access to a freezer? Like above the employee lunch fridge? Frozen wet bandanas- tie one around the neck, switch out for a fresh one when it gets warm. Keep some ice packs frozen for when you sense an emergency coming- or even if it just feels good- to hold under your armpits, where large veins are closest to the skin (also in the groin, but you may not want to do that at work.) (This is also something you can do to help if another worker goes down in the heat, without all the drama of the bathtub scene.)

And then there's all kinds of ayurvedic and homeopathic stuff- not my thing, but it seems to really work for some. I'd try it before I quit a mostly-good job in a maybe-recession.

Good luck and thanks for all you share with us.